Saturday, September 8, 2007

Guest Blog: Climate Change and the Global Class Divide

The 60th UN NGO Conference, this year focusing on Climate Change, has now concluded. The final session heard from the head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) who expressed his appreciation of the conference, its efforts to raise the visibility of the dangers of climate change and to encourage action by individuals, organizations, coalitions, governments at all levels from local to national to international. He explained the current scientific consensus on likely effects from climate change in the future, and gave examples of the increasing effects we are already experiencing. His clear message is that the sooner humanity takes decisive action, the less the costs and the less the suffering.

In an earlier blog (see also here), I overstated the number of participants. There were over 1,700 from 62 countries representing over 500 NGOs.

The effects on the world's climate already show that those who have contributed least to the creation of the problem are most at risk of suffering the greatest impacts, becoming victims twice over. Poor countries, poor people, people already living at the edge, are all at greatest risk to their homes, water supplies, useable land, and livelihoods. The industrialized countries must take the lead, having contibuted more to the creation of the problem, having more resources, and by having larger economies therefore having greater impact on lessening the problem. Some conference participants noted that within so-called "rich" countries, there are still huge disparities of income and power.

There are several ways of looking at the current and potential impact and the ways humanity has of dealing with those impacts, both real and potential. We can engage in mitigation, to keep the problem from getting worse. We can engage in adaptation, to adjust to the impacts. And we (some more than others) will suffer from the impacts--impacts such as more flooding, more drought, more desertification, more extreme weather events, more scarcity of potable water, to mention just some.

It is fascinating how much issues of climate change are linked to virtually all social, economic, and political issues and problems. It is perplexing how people who are ready to confront the most difficult scientific issues are reluctant to confront the most difficult economic issues. A Pollyannish view of the necessary economic changes and production changes is rampant, even among those who are skeptical of market solutions.

Tomorrow, I will summarize the conference, some lessons for radicals, and prospects for this issue to play a greater and greater role in electoral struggles as well as almost all other struggles.

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